In another time and place, Ricky Romero would have imploded.
The first two innings were difficult and, well, rather ugly. He issued six walks, loaded the bases twice and only threw 18 of his first 47 pitches for strikes.
The saving grace was that he hadn’t surrendered a run. Romero took the bump in the road, passed it and settled in through five solid innings.
Only problem was that the free pass became a problem for the entire Buffalo Bisons’ pitching staff.
The Herd issued 12 walks, including walking in the tying run in the ninth inning, in a 2-1 loss to the Louisville Bats at Coca-Cola Field Sunday afternoon. Six of those walks came with two outs and every one of the four Herd pitchers issued at least one walk.
“They worked behind in the counts. You can’t work behind in the counts,” Bisons’ pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. “We had maybe 11 first-pitch strikes out of 43 guys. That’s a recipe for disaster and that’s what it was. It could have been a lot worse. Usually you walk 12 guys, you give up about nine, 10 runs. So they were lucky in that aspect. It was just one of those days. Nobody could find the zone.”
“I don’t have an explanation for it,” manager Gary Allenson said. “I think when you’re doing playing and you’re managing, the walks really get to you, especially when you have a lead. … We got away with them early but we didn’t get away with them late.”
Romero walked three batters each in the first and second, loading the bases both times. In the first he got a strikeout to end the threat while in the second a double play got Romero and the Herd out of the jam.
It was a tricky start for Romero but he was strong for his final three innings. In his final line he pitched five scoreless innings with two hits, four strikeouts and six walks. He tossed 91 pitches, 43 for strikes.
But the final line of the no-decision doesn’t show the improvement Romero made through the course of the outing. Nor does it show the improvement of his mental approach.
“Walks are bad. I feel like they always turn into runs for some weird reason and I was lucky today that they didn’t,” Romero said.
“I didn’t let it beat me. I think the biggest thing I did was not dwell on those two innings but just keep moving forward and just look at the next pitch. Next pitch. Next pitch. That’s what I kept telling myself. Sometimes those box scores don’t always tell how you feel. I’m just glad I finished the game strong and we’ll move forward.”
The game moved forward with the bullpen from the sixth inning on and while the Herd finally got a bit of offense against Louisville starter (and former Bison) Chien-Ming Wang, the wheels came off the pitching staff in the ninth.
With two outs and runners on second and third, reliever Gregory Infante issued another walk to fill the bases. John Stilson entered the game to face Thomas Neal, who took a 3-2 pitch for a ball low to move the tying run across the plate.
Max Ramirez then drove a 1-0 pitch down the right field line to put the Bats up, 2-1.
The Herd had a chance in the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back singles by Kevin Pillar and Dan Johnson but Ryan Schimpf grounded into a double play to end the game.